Nottingham firms hope to regenerate parts of Eastern Europe14 January 2010
Nottingham's construction and development industry hopes to repeat its regeneration of the city in projects thousands of miles away.
Architects, engineers, consultants and project managers are among those lining up to pitch for potentially lucrative projects in Romania and Belarus.
They are chasing opportunities lined up by Nottingham City Council, Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire Chamber, international trade organisation UKTI and East Midlands Development Agency.
The city is exploiting a long-standing twinning arrangement with Minsk and a collaboration deal with Timisoara to offer Nottingham expertise to a £500m project in the Belarus capital and regeneration schemes in Romania's second city.
Around a dozen city firms will fly to Minsk next week to hear from energy and construction conglomerate Univest about plans to create a huge, upmarket suburb called Nottingham which would house more than 20,000 people and feature homes, offices, shops, hotels and educational institutions, with buildings in an English style.
In Timisoara, the city's Mayor is looking to secure millions from the European Union for schemes which will see one of the country's most picturesque cities become a major cultural and tourist location.
Twenty city firms attended a preliminary meeting on Monday and were briefed about the projects and a visit to Nottingham next month by the Mayor of Timisoara and his officials, and the UK Ambassador to Romania, Robin Barnett.
Coun Alan Clark, whose city council housing portfolio has seen him involved in a number of renewal projects, says Timisoara hoped Nottingham could help it unlock European regional development support.
He said: "There is a lot of money available for EU accession states like Romania, sometimes up to 85% of a project's cost. We have long experience in Nottingham of securing European funding and knowing how to spend it so I hope we can help them."
Mark Hobson, managing director of Nottingham's Maber Architects, said the availability of European money meant the projects had significant potential.
"You have to bear in mind with all European projects that we will be competing with others and nothing is guaranteed," he said. "It's very early days. But the fact is that the money is definitely available and both as a practice and a city we have got experience not only of securing this kind of funding but also of delivering the finished project.
"We should also be encouraged by the involvement of the city council and UK Trade and Investment because it means that some of the initial introductory work has already been done, so we're not going in cold.
"We will also be following up on Minsk, though I think we need to know more about the background to the project and its funding before we can properly assess its potential."
Architects, project management consultants, construction engineers and other professionals from the city have all shown an interest in the two schemes.
Some of them have previous experience of operating in Eastern Europe.
Canal Street-based Leonard Design architects will be joining the delegation next week to Minsk and is also interest in Timisoara. Director Mike Nagelsztajn said: "We are already involved in a project in Bucharest, but we hope that the involvement of the council will help establish with people from Timisoara that Nottingham is a centre for the expertise and design excellence that they are looking for."
Steve Fletcher, of regeneration experts Focus Consultants, has advised on schemes like Nottingham' Galleries of Justice.
He said: "It looks like the city council has already done a lot of the introductory work in positioning Nottingham as a city that has the relevant expertise and their may be some good opportunities for partnership working here.
"A number of projects are already under way in Romania involving German and Italian companies, so we've got to make the most of the relationships being built by the city.
"If you look at where Nottingham was 10-12 years ago then a lot of what they are trying to achieve in Timisoara has already been done here. There's no reason why we can't apply that expertise over there."